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An Org Chart Tool For Rebels

Tom Nixon
Written by Tom Nixon March 01, 2023

Let’s be honest, for organizational rebels like you and me, org charts are not the first thing that comes to mind when we think about the future of work. This is because the crappy old-school org charts are really only about management hierarchy, and they usually don’t reflect how things really work and help us get shit done. But you know this already, right?

Today, many of us organize in ways that go far beyond what a typical org chart can handle. For instance:

  • Colleagues wear many hats, not limiting themselves to a single job title and job description.
  • We lead in some contexts while playing supporting roles in others.
  • Accountability is key, but without going big on bosses and “line management.”
  • The whole thing is continually adapting and morphing.

Yet even when we don’t organize using a traditional management hierarchy, we can still benefit from a clear picture of how an initiative fits together. This, in turn, allows things like the following:

  • New starters can find their way around quickly and discover places to contribute.
  • We can spot and eliminate excessive duplication of effort.
  • We make wiser decisions and consult when appropriate.
  • Transparency around how we’re all making and keeping commitments.

But here’s what’s vital: The whole thing must evolve continually and be available to everyone online. After all, a sad, static graphic peeling off a beige office wall outside the HR Department is so last century.

“Let’s be honest, for organizational rebels like you and me, org charts are not the first thing that comes to mind when we think about the future of work.”

Org charts fit for rebels

Old-school org charts are clearly not fit for our rebellious purposes, yet we still need ways to visualize and create clarity in our initiatives.

Fortunately, new alternative approaches to org charts can give us the clarity we need, such as Sociocracy, and, my favorite, Creative Field Mapping. This is progress!

A few years ago, I went on a search for a next-level org chart tool to map things digitally. From my own experience as a founder and an advisor to others, I knew that I needed:

  • Something simple with an easy learning curve
  • Undogmatic and flexible (don’t force me to use Holacracy!)
  • An affordable, fully-hosted, and supported option without hefty per-person fees
  • Open source, contributing to the commons that anyone can use for free
  • Purpose-driven with zero traditional investors who mostly chase the money

Unfortunately, nothing out there checked off all of these boxes.

Hello Maptio

My futile search efforts pushed me to take the plunge—I made a crazy bet that if I designed a tool to scratch my own itch, perhaps others in the rebel community would find it valuable too.

Let’s be clear here: building a startup that’s also an open-source project while having a day job and being a parent is not easy! After a strong start, I nearly gave up back in 2020 after my original co-founder had to leave to work on fully paid projects. When the pandemic hit, my workweek shrunk to three days around parenting responsibilities. Difficult times indeed!

But something (the madness of a founder?) told me this was still worth doing, so I doubled down on the project. Nine impact investors who wanted to see it happen came on board, and I was able to have my brilliant colleague Romek working full-time with me.

In 2022, we launched Maptio, opened up self-service onboarding for the fully hosted version, and released it as open source.

And to my great delight (and a massive chunk of relief, to be honest), other people love it too.

Afbeelding Maptio

I’ll spare you a big sales pitch, but in a nutshell, Maptio allows you to map how the vision for a company, non-profit, DAO, or social movement breaks down into the ever more specific initiatives, teams, or areas of responsibility that contribute to it.

You can see who’s responsible for what and who else is helping and add tags to map themes and goals across the initiative. You can keep your map private or share it with the world. It brings more clarity and sanity to what you’re doing.

Rebels, join us

If you’re part of a rebellious initiative going far beyond traditional org charts, and you vibe with our values of ultra simplicity, affordability, open source, and being fiercely purpose-driven, we’d love for you to join us! Because truthfully, you people get it.

If you need to make things clear and accountable in your initiative, you can dive in and use Maptio. If you’re a coach or consultant who advises other rebel teams, you can use Maptio in your toolkit.

Your feedback is super valuable. Help us find the bugs and little improvements to make Maptio better. If you’re technically minded, have a go at installing your own instance of it. Let us know how it goes. And better still, would you like to contribute to Maptio and improve it for everyone?

The future

Although I founded a software company, I confess I honestly couldn’t care less about trying to be “the next unicorn” or growing exponentially forever. I don’t need to dominate anything, and I’m very happy to coexist in an ecosystem of alternative products with different values, approaches, and strengths. This benefits everyone, and that’s what it’s all about.

As the movement for next-generation workplaces grows, there’s room for us all. I’d love to see Maptio be the go-to open-source tool for rebels, building the initiatives we need to create the kind of world we want.

I’ll be back with regular updates to share the highs and lows of the journey of creating a tool for this community.

Until then, take care, and please consider joining us in this endeavor in whatever way is best for you.

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Written by Tom Nixon
Tom Nixon
Tom Nixon is the founder of Maptio, an Associate at Greaterthan, a coach and advisor to pioneering founders, and the author of Work with Source.
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